High speed for your travels in the Muslim world

For various reasons, much has been said in recent years about the famous high-speed train to Mecca, developed and put into operation by a consortium of Spanish companies in the sector. But in the Muslim world there are other similar railway systems, which combine comfort and speed of travel with state-of-the-art infrastructure and stations. At Mandala Tours, we usually articulate our tailor-made tours through private vehicles with chauffeur, but if you like to travel by train and want to live this experience in our destinations, we can also integrate this service into the package. The following are the three countries in our portfolio where this is currently feasible.

Morocco, with Al Boraq

The high-speed rail system in Morocco is called Al Boraq, which is precisely the name of the mythical creature that took Mohammed to the heavens. For the moment, it has only one line that runs through the main cities of the Atlantic coast, with the following route: Tangier – Kenitra – Rabat – Casablanca. Its French Alstom trains can reach a top speed of 320 km/h (200 mph). It has been operational since 2016 and it was then when the stations of that network were inaugurated, highlighting for their beauty and spectacularity those of Rabat Agdal and Kenitra.

Turkey: YHT (Yuksek Hizli Treni)

The high-speed train service in Turkey is known as YHT (Yuksek Hizli Treni) and facilitates travel between the Bosphorus area, the capital and Western Anatolia. The existing network connects Istanbul, Eskisehir, Ankara, Sivas, Konya and Karaman. The German company Siemens was in charge of developing the project, with Siemens TCDD trains, with a top speed of 300 km/h.

Israel and its A1 or Railway 29 line

Israel has an efficient railway network, but as far as high-speed rail is concerned, it has only one line: the Tel Aviv – Jerusalem line, also known as Plan A1 or Railway 29. Technically, it does not fit the international definition of high speed, as its trains only reach an operational speed of 160 km/h (top speed of 200 km/h). In any case, it is a quick solution to connect the two ‘Israeles’: the secular and liberal of the Mediterranean coast and the conservative and religious of the interior, since in just 25 minutes you can get from Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport to the holy city of Jerusalem.

Other ongoing projects

Although the high-speed network in these three countries is modest in terms of station density, expansion projects are underway in all three countries. For example, Morocco will soon extend the service to cities such as Fez, Marrakech and Agadir, while Israel announced its ambitious One Israel to connect the far north (Kiryat Shemona) to the south (Eilat), and even its continuation through neighboring countries.

This Israeli project would involve the Aqaba station in Jordan, on a line to Saudi Arabia. But for the time being, Jordan has hardly any trains, except for a few lines in the north, so its project under study envisages the creation of its own network in the coming decades.

More advanced is the project in Egypt, which also does not have high-speed rail, but is already building a very long network of more than 2,000 km in total. The three planned lines will run in the Mediterranean area (from the Suez Canal to Marsa Matruh via Alexandria), from Luxor to Hurghada and from Cairo to Abu Simbel, parallel to the Nile River.

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